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Censorship: China Versus the World

Censorship in China

Censorship: China Versus the World

For as long as there has been an Internet, China has sought to monitor and control how its citizens use it. Technology known as “the Great Firewall” blocks websites on an array of sensitive topics (democracy, for instance), while tens of thousands of government monitors and citizen volunteers regularly sweep through blogs, chat forums, and even email to ensure nothing challenges the country’s self-styled “harmonious society.” Together, this massive network of Internet nannying is imperiously called “the Golden Shield Project.”

Google vs. China

Although the dispute between the Chinese government and Google continues to evolve, there were signs at the beginning of April that a ceasefire may be taking hold; one that could allow both sides to plausibly claim victory. At the end of March, Google failed to renew its Internet Content Provider (ICP) license in China. Since an ICP license is required for all China-registered commercial websites, this effectively sounded the death knell for Google’s simplified-Chinese search engine, google.cn. All requests for the google.cn website are now redirected to Google’s Hong Kong site, www.google.com.hk.

China’s Censorship Laws

Now China is requiring you to submit a photo ID to the government if you want to create a website. This isn’t really a surprise, given China’s massive Internet censorship (“Great Firewall”) efforts, but apparently the Chinese government is now requiring anyone who wants to set up a website in the country to submit their identity cards and photos of themselves before they can build a site.

How to Check Whether Your Website is Blocked

There are at least three reliable services that help you test Internet filtering in China. All have computers located in different cities of China and try to access your site using the ping command. If you get a “packet's lost” error or a timeout while connecting to your site, chances are that the site is restricted.

Just Ping: This service has checkpoints inside Hong Kong and Shanghai in China.

Watch Mouse: This service too has monitoring stations inside Hong Kong and Shanghai in China.

Website Pulse: In addition to Hong Kong and Shanghai, this site conducts connectivity tests from Beijing. Unlike services that simply do a ping test, this service tries downloading the complete HTML web page. The total response time shows how long it takes for your website to download.

Internet Users in China

In 2000, China had about 25 million Internet users. In 2001, China had about 35 million Internet users. In 2002, China had about 55 million Internet users. In 2003, China had about 70 million Internet users. In 2004, China had about 95 million Internet users. In 2005, China had about 102 million Internet users. In 2006, China had about 135 million Internet users. In 2007, China had about 165 million Internet users. In 2008, China had about 250 million Internet users. In 2009, China had about 385 million Internet users.

Availability of Popular English-Language Sites in China

Some of the most popular websites are blocked or partially blocked to Chinese Internet users. Here are some of the most popular sites and their status in China.

  • BBC News: Partially blocked
  • CNN: Available
  • NY Times: Available
  • Wired: Available
  • Wikipedia: Partially blocked.
  • Digg: Available
  • Reddit: Available
  • Mixx: Blocked
  • WikiLeaks: Blocked
  • IMDB: Available
  • Facebook: Blocked
  • Twitter: Blocked
  • Blogger: Blocked
  • Typepad: Blocked
  • Gmail: Available
  • Hotmail: Available
  • Yahoo Mail: Available
  • YouTube: Blocked
  • Vimeo: Blocked
  • Dailymotion: Blocked
  • Flickr: Available
  • TwitPic: Blocked
  • ImageShack: Blocked
  • Ustream: Blocked
  • iTunes Store: Partially blocked
  • Scribd: Blocked
  • Xmarks: Blocked
  • YouSendIt: Blocked
  • Pirate bay: Blocked